Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Christmas

Just to get it out of the way, Happy Xmas to everyone who reads this. I generally don't send a lot of cards out, and this year it was even less than normal - so if you didn't get one, don't feel offended.

Hope everyone had a lovely time, got merry and generally enjoyed themselves fully. Oh, and while I've got your attention, Happy New Year for 2008 as well.

And with that seasonal goodwill out of the way, let's see what else I can write about.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

What I'd Do If I Was In Charge

Suzi just asked me what the first thing I'd do if I was in charge of the country and why. So I had a think about it, and discounted banning the French & grouping all the gingers in Scotland so I knew where they were. And as funny as leaving the EU would be, I think I have a better idea.

I'd set a flat rate of pay for MPs and it would only go up at the rate of inflation - as it would for all Civil Service staff and everyone employed through the Government, like the Police, Armed Forces, Nurses, Teachers etc.

MPs would get a flat in London (council owned) to live in, plus they'd get rail travel allowance back to their constituency every week, and they'd get paid for reasonable expenses (like keeping up a website, postage, that sort of thing) - but they'd not be allowed to have any other source of income. No jobs in the City, no company directorships, no book deals, no lecture tours.

And like a proper job, they'd all have to attend every day in Parliament, and go to their constituencies when Parliament was closed (and I'm proposing Westminster only being open on Monday to Wednesday so they Thursday to Sunday with the people who vote for them so they can get a better idea of what's going on in their areas)

Oh, and the MP must have lived in the area they represent for a minimum of five years before they can be elected.

Yes, I know it's dull. And in retrospect, I'd probably be more popular if I decided to invade France and then flatten Germany, but as I'm not that twat Richard Littlejohn, I'll try to avoid lazy racial slurs disguised as popularism.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

John Smeaton Honoured By Queen

For those of you who don't remember him, John Smeaton is the Glasgow Airport baggage handler who "restrained" one of the "suicide bombers" who attacked the airport in June 2007. By "restrained" of course I mean "kicked in the balls" and by "suicide bomber" I mean "man on fire".

By a curious coincidence, Frankie Boyle was on "Live At The Apollo" last night and was commenting on exactly that incident "they should use a photo of him on a poster with the phrase "Welcome to Scotland" on it". To paraphrase (apologies as it won't be as funny);

"You're trying to bring religious hatred to Glasgow? You're about 400 years too late, and you don't even have a football team! The press were saying it was terrible that all these holidaymakers were going to be burned alive. The thing they were missing is, these were Scots heading to Spain; so it's the same thing but without the flights. And the police were thankful the bombers didn't get to the fuel storage. I was more concerned they might have made it to the crowds holding their Duty Free! It would've been like Hiroshima if that lot had gone up."


HMRC Does It Again!

Obviously concerned about the DVLA's attempts to become the "Department Most Likely To Lose Your Personal Details", HMRC have only gone and done it again!

This time they've lost a "data cartridge" containing the names, addresses, dates of birth, National Insurance numbers and pension contribution details of 6500 people from the North West of England. The data was sent by courier to the HMRC from Countrywide Assured in September, signed for by the HMRC, and then lost somewhere.

Having previously lost details belonging to people with children and the poor, perhaps this is their way of targetting pensioners just so no-one feels left out.


Monday, December 17, 2007

National Smoking Day

While looking for answers to the post below, I came across a site which proposes a day of civil disobedience by smokers. It also raises points I've mentioned previously about just where the Government will stop in deciding what you can and cannot do (drinkers, I still think you're next).

National Smoking Day is planned to take place on December 31st this year, and the organisers are hoping that there won't need to be another one after this. Although I suspect that there'll have to be many, many more. Unless it's combined with a coup as I mentioned in a previous post.

The "event" has tacit support from FOREST (as you would expect) and a growing number of premises that will not stop people from smoking should they want to on that day.

How successful this is will depend on just how bothered security and local officials are going to be in stopping what should be a peaceful (if smoky) protest, given how much drunkenness and fighting there's likely to be going on at the same time.


Smoking Outdoors

Since July 2007, it has become illegal to smoke indoors in pretty much every building in the UK (although apparently not in the bar in the House of Commons). However, since then, it has also become very tricky to smoke outdoors in an ever increasing number of places.

You can't, for example, smoke on the pavement in front of Kings Cross station in London (at least not on the yellow markings). Much to my surprise at the weekend, I also discovered you can no longer smoke in the outdoor shopping market in Enfield. Despite them having ashtrays set on top of the bins. And this only applies, oddly, to the old section (with the red brick floor) not the new bit (with the grey flagstones).

Two questions. First up, does anyone have any other examples of places you can no longer smoke? Secondly, if anyone of a legal persuasion is reading this, what, if any, is the offence if I smoke outdoors on private property where there are instructions telling me not to smoke? I feel a legal challenge coming on.

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Following on from the loss of discs containing information on 7000 people from Northern Ireland, the Sunday Times has revealed that the DVLA have now lost more information!

According to the BBC, the breach is going to be discussed in Parliament today when the Transport Secretary Ruth "Boy Wonder" Kelly will be providing more information about the loss. At the time of writing, it is believed that the loss does not include Driver's Licence information and actually pre-dates the previous Northern Ireland loss.

The DVLA say it's "historical" I say it's hysterical! This was probably only noticed because of audits done due to the other losses, so in many ways, we should be thankful they've realised. Still, nice to know the DVLA are pushing HMRC to the title of "Department You'd Most Trust To Lose Your Data" in the end of year award ceremonies.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Fuck Your Laws... GLUG GLUG GLUG

From the legends at The Register, a story about a 64 year old German man, who when told he couldn't take his 1L bottle of vodka into the cabin of his connecting flight - ditch it or pay for it to be put in the hold - decided to drink the whole thing.

I salute the man. He is in a German hospital having been diagnosed with life-threatening alcohol poisoning, but you have to admire such determination. Particularly in the face of such stupidity from officials. You're allowed to take Duty Free on board planes, and this was a connecting flight.

As has also been pointed out to me, for some people I know, that is merely a warm up to a bigger drinking session. For other people I know (/me waves at Feldman) this is probably the only tactic that would allow them to get onto the plane in the first place.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Personal Information No Longer Private

After the HMRC, DVLA, Sefton PCA & many, many more examples of private information being lost or given away to the wrong people, another one crops up! It's like buses, you wait ages for one...

This time, the Department of Work & Pension (DWP) has lost 800 loan application forms somewhere between Sheffield and Newcastle. The applications were from people hoping to take advantage of interest free loans given to the financially disadvantaged, in order to help them spread the cost of one-off purchases like kitchen appliances.

The information included applicants' names, addresses, dates of birth, National Insurance numbers and bank details, according to Lee Rock, from the civil service union PCS. The DWP said: "Clearly we are extremely concerned that these payments have been delayed and we are striving to ensure no one is in hardship because of what has occurred."

You might also want to be concerned about them suddenly discovering they're even more financially disadvantaged because someone has taken loans out in their name, using the information you've just lost sonny Jim.

In other DWP comedy news, an ex-contractor has revealed that she still had two discs - containing up to 18,000 names and details of benefits received - a YEAR after being given them, as she had "forgotten" to return them. I'm guessing that, in line with other Government departments, the DWP don't list who has what information and whether it's been returned.

Good work the Government. You fucking retards.

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Grilled Brown

Following on nicely from the post below, Gordon Brown is currently being "grilled" by other politicians about just what the hell the Government is doing.

So far, the main thrust of his answers are that both Public and private businesses need to improve the care and security of data. No shit, Sherlock! Or, and here's a thought, stop trying to collate so much data. Because if there's similar incompetence in the running of the proposed National ID Card scheme, what am I supposed to do if you fuck it up? Get new fingerprints? New eyes?

It's not as if the systems that are currently in place do the fucking job they're supposed to, is it? The "re-appearing canoeist" John Darwin seems to have used a scam first shown (in a FUCKING FILM!) in 1973, whereby you find someone born roughly when you were, but who died before the age where they'd be likely to get a passport, get a copy of their birth certificate (from the Government, for a fee, natch) and then use that to apply for a passport in their name.

Shouldn't there be, perhaps, a check to see if the person applying is also on the Register of Deaths? You know, just in case they're stupid enough to use a film plot? Hmm? You wouldn't need a flashy new IT system costing billions of pounds for that, would you?

Which is handy, as pretty much every one of the new IT systems doesn't do the job it was designed to do. I was entertained, though not surprised, to discover there was another failure I hadn't heard about: Libra. The Register mentioned it back in February, but I didn't realise then that the system cannot process the information needed for the surcharge (all criminals in England and Wales should pay a £15 "victims' surcharge" towards services) as the system, launched in April (months behind schedule) only recognises those who are fined.

He also contends that "we are not alone" in being completely clueless in securing personal data. This is true, there are literally hundreds of other examples worldwide of data breaches. Some commentators (normally spotted when the sun reflects off their tin-foil hat) have suggested that these breaches are actually the US Government collecting data on the population of the planet. I would personally suspect it's having clueless people in IT positions as a cost-saving measure, but I can offer you no proof.

Not that that stopped the Government using "we have no reason to believe the discs were stolen" when HMRC lost 25 million records. He also says that on the back of the HMRC debacle, "no one has lost any money". No, not yet they haven't you duplicitous cunt, but as there's YEARS before some of them will be old enough to earn money, that's hardly a comfort is it?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Technically Inept Government

Three more horror stories of Government incompetence vis a vis the implementation of IT policies and procedures. The first two follow on nicely from the apparent determination of the Government's agencies and representatives to give away personal information, while the third just sums up the corporate stupidity of a Government clueless about IT.

First up, the good people of the DVLA (Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority for the non-UK based amongst you) have managed to lose the details of 6000 people from Northern Ireland by using the traditional method of posting them on unencrypted CDs. No financial information was included, fortunately.

Which is more than can be said of the information on several thousand employees sent by Sefton Primary Care Trust to several un-named companies. National Insurance (like Social Security if you're American) numbers and salary details were "mistakenly" sent to the companies who are bidding for work with the "Trust".

My personal favourite though has to be this story from The Register about the Government's recent announcement that the UK should push it's ICT sector to the world. There was the usual press launch, with the announcement the website would be up and running shortly. One small problem, the Government's ICT team hadn't actually registered the domain name prior to the press launch. So The Register have the domain name. Genius.

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Not A Third World Country After All

Given the fact the Government have overseen the biggest single loss of personal data in the UK ever reported, taken donations illegally (on the back of the cash for honours affair), and have lost the support of the Army chiefs over funding (mind you, this is the same MOD who are paying rent on 8,000 empty properties), you'd have expected them to be a bit more careful when it came to keeping the support of the Police.

But no.

The Police are looking at ways of challenging the ban on them taking strike action over the way the Government are implementing a pay-rise. The representatives of the Police are also talking about taking industrial action without striking - such as mass ringing in sick, refusing to carry weapons etc - if the ban on striking remains in place.

My question is this. If the Fire Brigade go on strike then they're "covered" by the Army, so would the Army be expected to "cover" the Police if they go on strike? If so, two further questions.

Firstly, just how happy are the public going to be to see the Army on the streets? You only have to look at Northern Ireland to see the delight it caused over there. Secondly, how are the already over-stretched Army supposed to do this? I am personally of the opinion that if France attempted to invade tomorrow there aren't enough personnel in the UK to stop them.

I suppose the Government should be thankful we're not quite a Third World country just yet, because if we were, then they'd have all the elements necessary for a coup against them. Mind you, it'd be funny to do it anyway, wouldn't it?

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Newcastle United, Again

So, it's been a while since I mentioned the football - and if you don't want to know the results, look away now - and I thought I'd wait until we'd stopped being quite so bad before commenting again. Didn't realise it would take this long, but there you go. Just didn't want to give the impression I was kicking the team when they were already down.

Going into the game last Wednesday against Arsenal, I didn't hold out much hope of a result. When we went behind after 4 minutes, I suspected the tidal wave of goals would be coming against us. Much to my surprise, it didn't happen. What actually happened was a determined (if still slightly light on creativity and out right chances) performance that got us a well-deserved draw and could have led to a slightly surprising win.

Now obviously, Boro beating Arsenal this past weekend does make our result look slightly less impressive, but given how easily we'd shipped goals against Liverpool, Blackburn and Portsmouth, I was pleased with the result. I was also dreading how we'd do on Saturday against a Birmingham side who'd beaten Tottenham in their previous game, but such is the life of a Newcastle supporter.

As it happens, it started in the usual way, with us going a goal down all too quickly due to the new tactic of hoofing the ball up to the striker (just the one, even though we were at home against a bottom six team) and watching it come back all too directly into the hole where central defenders normally operate. Well, where you'd normally expect them to be. Unless you're a Newcastle fan, when you'd expect a gaping hole.

Like the Arsenal game though, Newcastle got back into it. This time through a dubious penalty (although we should have had one later that was ignored) and unlike against Arsenal, grabbed a win through a freaky goal (by the usually inept Beye) in stoppage time. Allardyce, the players and the fans looked delighted at getting three points for the first time since October. The relief was palpable, to be honest.

While I'm pleased with the win, I'm still no fan of Allardyce's tactics - for God sake man, play 4-4-2 and stop lumping the ball past midfielders who have the creativity to get us goals, it's not fucking tricky is it? His purchases are still not doing the business they were bought to do - the back four of Enrique, Cacapa, Rozehnal and Beye aren't any better (in some cases worse) than we had last season. And he still refuses to give interviews to the BBC - leaving it to the less than interesting Nigel Pearson.

Mourinho's out of work and not going for the England job, Capello's sniffing round the FA for the England job & Klinsmann's looking for club management again. Yet we have the tactical equivalent of being hit over the head with a shovel in charge. Please Mr Ashley, could you please sack the idiot? Thanks.

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Spanish Holidays

So, got up at 5.15am on Saturday morning, drove to the airport and flew to Spain. Nice bit of the jet-setting, carbon-footprint-increasing (although I don't feel too bad as I don't have children) lifestyle I lead. Got to Girona (about 1hr North of Barcelona) and after a very short time, realised the place was pretty much shut.

According to three separate locals, it was because of some Spanish holiday. Although why they do it on a Saturday is a bit beyond me, seeing as office and factory workers traditionally don't work weekends. Mind you, most of Spain also has (or had up until very recently) the luxury of a good couple of hours kip in the middle of the afternoon every day, so they know a thing or two about taking the piss with regards to time off.

So anyway, we had a brief wander round Girona, sat in a park by the bus station for a couple of hours then flew home. Weather in Spain was lovely though - twice as hot as London, and not raining in the slightest. Going to aim to go back at some point in the New Year and have a couple of days, plus maybe weekends to Dublin and Amsterdam.

Which leads me to the main reason for this post - no, it wasn't to gloat about being in Spain - does anyone have any recommendations for nice places to go for the weekend that aren't in the UK, but can be reached in about 2 hours flying time?

Add answers in the comments, ta!

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Friday, December 07, 2007

And In Related News

Following on from the post below, a joke courtesy of PopBitch:

"I bought a teddy today for £5, named him Mohammed & sold him on for £10. Question is, have I made a prophet?"


And as is traditional in the run up to Christmas/whatever festival, I shall be trying to offend every religion going.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This Made Me Laugh

Coming on the back of the Sudan's imprisonment of a teacher for allowing a class of children to call a teddy bear Muhammad, and the subsequent calls for her to be killed, I was entertained to receive the following on Facebook.

With the accompanying text "Mohammed the traveling bear would like to travel all over the world. If he visits you please send him on!!!"

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Unnecessary Picture Heading

Please, if you will, take a look at the following photo from the BBC's story about Argentinian ugly people "fighting back".

And tell me whether the heading "Campaigner Gonzalo Otalora admits he was and is no oil painting" which accompanies it, is just a bit superfluous.


Banned For Farting

Something Nat & Ryan (see below) will have to put up with for the next 18 years, is something customers at a social club in Devon refused to put up with any longer.

A 77 year old man has been told to leave the premises whenever he needs to break wind as he was offending other people.

Quite fantastically, he said "I think someone has complained about the noise. I am a loud farter, but there is no smell." Which probably means that while his hearing is still working, his sense of smell has stopped completely.

If I live that long, I'd like to be banned from places for farting. Actually, no, I'd like to be banned from places for shooting people, but I'll accept farting.


Congratulations Nat & Ryan!

Yesterday morning (4th December) at 10.25am, Nat & Ryan's first child (a boy) was born. Mother and child doing well, father doing cartwheels.


MSN's Swearing Santa Shocker

I have to admit I'm surprised none of the more mainstream media outlets followed up on El Reg's exclusive report on the foul-mouthed tirade the MSN online Santa bot gives to people. This is exactly the sort of thing that I'd like to be reading more about!

Example (and actual) dialogue:

Santa says: See if you can get someone else to eat it!

El Reg says: Eat it

Santa says: You want me to eat what?!? It's fun to talk about oral sex, but I want to chat about something else...

El Reg says: You dirty bastard!

Santa says: I think you're dirty bastard.

Pure comedy gold there from the Beast of Redmond.

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HMRC Again

In a moment of true comedy, HMRC have announced today that they're offering a £20,000 (US$40,000) reward for the return of the disks they announced they'd lost last month.

Lovely, more of taxpayers' money being spent! Well done everybody.

One slight problem that the more technical of you will have spotted here. What's to stop someone copying the disks, hand in the originals, get £20k reward, then either sell the information on the black market anyway or wait 10 years and make serious money then?


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I Am A Slack Bastard

Well, I am. I've just realised how little I've posted to this blog over the past few months or so. And I could say it was because I've been busy, or whatever, but given how much Mia's posted on hers - despite moving to Canada, living in shared accommodation and not having access to the internet at one point - that's not really going to wash.

I could say that there's been nothing happening in the news recently that's made me want to post. Although as there's been defeat after hapless defeat for Newcastle United, blunder after scandalous blunder by HM Government and their agencies and lots of other things I would normally rant about, that wouldn't be strictly true either.

So yeah, the reason I've not been blogging recently is because I am a fat, slack bastard. But I will try to post more often - although there's hardly been a clamour from the world at large.


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